Posts Tagged ‘Ron Eglash’

Letter From New York 05 04 15 A series of glorious days…

May 4, 2015

As I wend my way toward New York this morning, the sun is splashing off the Hudson River, a small boat cruising north as I trundle south, green beginning to tip the trees that line the river bank. It will be another in a short string of beautiful days that have blessed the Hudson Valley.

Saturday was an exquisite day. I rose early and went to the Farmer’s Market, sourcing from there everything I would serve for dinner that night. Ron Eglash, who also spoke the Indian Institute of Technology/Roorkee when I was there, came down with his wife, Audrey Bennett, who is also a professor at RPI in Troy.

Every moment of Saturday felt joyful, even blissful. I don’t know that I have ever experienced a day quite like it. Everything I did seem to bring me pleasure in a soft, delightful way. I reveled in the sheer pleasure of each moment.

I did not write a Letter on Saturday or Sunday. To do so would mean that I would look out into the world when all I wanted to do was savor the inner universe I was so pleasantly experiencing.

But now it is Monday morning and I am headed back to the city. My old friend, Michael DiPasquale, who lives in Los Angeles but was born in New York, is here to visit family and is coming into the city today from Long Island to visit with me.

As I have been typing, a CNN News Alert came crossing my screen to let me know that Carly Fiorina, once CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has announced she is running for President. I believe this marks the first time in history that two women have been seeking the Presidential nomination of their individual parties. Ms. Fiorina is a Republican. Hillary, as we all know, is a Democrat.

Also joining the Republican field of candidates is Ben Carson, popular with Republicans under thirty.

In Nepal, aid is beginning to flow and a 101-year-old man was dragged from the rubble alive, with only minor injuries. The Nepalese government has stated they will need much aid over a long period of time to rebuild. The death toll is over 7300 and still climbing.

In happier news, in case anyone missed it, their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed a baby girl, yet to be named, into their family. They are going up to their country house, Anmer Hall, which is two miles from where the Queen is at Sandringham House, so they may introduce her to her newest great-grandchild.   Sounds so civilized.

Not so civilized is the continuation of the air strikes in Yemen, as more and more Yemenis find themselves displaced by the bombings. More women and children have been rescued from Boko Haram in Nigeria as have some thousands been picked up in the Mediterranean, as they attempted crossing from Africa to Italy. Ethiopian Jews in Israel rioted over the weekend, hurling bottles and rocks at police, as they protested against racism toward them. Israeli police have said the protestors crossed the line.

In Garland, Texas, near Dallas, police shot down two gunmen when they leapt out of their vehicle and began shooting at a security guard at an exhibit of drawings of Mohammed. Muslims believe that you cannot depict The Prophet in a drawing. It was hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group noted for its anti-Islamic stands.

In Vegas, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. won “The Fight of The Century” against Manny Pacquiao and pocketed a reported $180,000,000, though the crowd at the end of the fight booed him. They apparently had feelings about his record of domestic violence.

In Boston, Russian relatives of Tsarnaev are going to testify in the penalty phase of his sentencing. His defense team ceded his guilt and is trying to win him life in prison rather than death.

A light haze now floats about the Hudson River, adding a moment of magic to the day. Not long ago we slipped past West Point, that formidable redoubt, passing by marinas prepping for the summer season, the river calm, still and probably very cold.

The day won’t be chill. It is predicted to hit in the 80’s today, the warmest weather yet of the year. I look forward to a good day.

Letter From New York 04 15 15 An Indian Reprise…

April 15, 2015

Yesterday, I emailed out a Letter From New York. I have been writing one nearly every day since mid-November but I don’t email many of those out, not wanting to clutter email inboxes.

If you’re interested, you can see them at www.mathewtombers.com. I realized yesterday that I hadn’t emailed one about the trip to India. I have been there and back again.

India is still not the easiest of trips but it’s certainly different from the India I first visited twenty years ago. Delhi is changed, and most westerners would think it for the better. The acrid smell of burnt rubber doesn’t cling to the streets as it did twenty years ago and the streets are no longer lined with people living in tents. The city has been freshened and is more colorful than I remember.

They still drive like madmen and I found the only way I could really deal with the four different road trips I took while in India was to close my eyes and surrender my safety to the universe. Whenever I opened my eyes it seemed death was rushing at me at sixty kilometers per hour.

I was in India to give a speech at the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee, one of the five branches of the IIT. It is a four-hour drive from Delhi, generally to the northeast. I was riding with another gentleman and he asked the driver to be a little more careful as he was scaring the American guest. I didn’t notice much difference but, at the end of those trips, I am alive and now back in the States where people, mostly, obey the rules and drive on their side of the road.

On the Saturday of the Conference at which I had been asked to speak, I went with another American speaker, Ron Eglash, an ethno-mathematician whose specialty is fractals, to Haridwar, one of the seven holy spots in the Hindu religion. I strolled along the edge of the Ganges, near where it flows into India, watching people bathe in its holy waters.

The speech went off without a hitch. I was pretty good, if I say so myself. The speech was to last for 60 minutes with questions and they were still being asked after 90. Shortly after that I told them to go enjoy themselves. It was great fun.

For the three days I was there I had two “minders” whose job was to see that I was fed and cossetted and had what I needed. They were the ones who arranged for Ron and I to go to Haridwar.

Returning to Delhi for a couple of days, I shopped some and rested and walked around Connaught Place, a central shopping area in Delhi that I had visited when I was first in India.

Twenty years ago it was pretty run down; today, there is a new coat of paint and the stores have been upgraded. Every third store was an international brand. Once, like all of Delhi, it was crowded with beggars but now there are few. My friend, Raja, who has now lived in Delhi for eight years told me they have all been moved out of Delhi into some other area, far enough away that they’re not visible. Another friend said that was more work and so fewer beggars. The difference was notable.

India though is still India, with wrenching gullies of poverty. Road trips take you past buildings that could never have been new and new ones that were old before they were finished. India has had a building boom and bust, too. Structural skeletons pockmark the landscape, looking as if they had been abandoned.

In Jaipur, I had the best meal I had in India at the Royal Heritage Haveli, a royal villa converted into a boutique luxury hotel. I wandered the Amber Fort and the City Palace and stared up at the Palace of the Winds.

In Jaipur I had a night of discomforting “Delhi belly” that came and went swiftly but left me tired.

India is a riot of colors, a visual feast if you can and are willing to take it all in. As I was driven to the airport to depart, I remember noticing the curbs were painted mint green.

Returning to New York, it seemed everything was beige. I felt color deprived.

It is comforting to be home, splitting my time between the little apartment in the city and the cottage upstate, where the brown of winter is beginning to yield to the green of spring.

It was my fourth trip to India. If the opportunity came, I would go again. I still would like to go to Goa and to the mountain town of Mussoorie, a hill town populated during the Raj by Brits fleeing the deadly heat of the plains.

It is a land that is both mystic and a bit mystifying. After my first trip I described the adventure as the most wonderful, horrible, awful, magnificent, transcendental experience I had ever had. It is less horrible and awful and still wonderful, magnificent and transcendental.

Letter From New York 03 19 15 With the speech over, back to Delhi…

March 29, 2015

It is always hard to know exactly how well it went when you give a speech, which I did today. Personally, I think it went well. No one fell asleep. There were very few yawns. It was supposed to go for sixty minutes; it went for 90+ with all the questions.

Professor Ron Eglash, who spoke before me, stayed for my speech and when we got into the car to go back to the guesthouse, he told me that I was brilliant! And he’s American, so he wasn’t using “brilliant” the way Brits do, to say that was nice. He thought I was really good and I appreciated it.

Twenty students rushed the stage to have their pictures taken with me so I felt, for a few seconds, like a rock star.

All good.

The day came grey and drizzly today and the grey has never really gone away. Post speech, I’m feeling a bit tired and am going to finish this and then try to catch a few minutes catnap. I’d really love a glass of wine but the campus is “dry” so I will have to wait for Delhi for that.

Now that the speech is done and the conference closed, I have gone back to perusing world events a bit more closely.

Angie’s List has put on hold its expansion in Indiana until it further understands the implications of that state’s Religious Freedom Act. They were about to break ground in a few days on a $40 million building project. In the meantime, the legislature is drafting a “clarification” of the law, which it plans to unveil in a few days. I am very curious to see the clarifications. I’ll still be in India when they come out but I will be looking.

It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Christian’s Holy Week. Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the Germanwings crash in the service today.

In other Francis’ news, he keeps hinting that he thinks his Papacy will be short, ended by some great event. I hope not. He is popular among Catholics and is stressing Christian themes in a way no Pope has for decades.

In good news for heavy drinkers, it is being reported that coffee counters the bad effects of drinking on the liver. One cup of coffee turns back the dial on three drinks. I predict coffee sales will rise.

Rising slightly are hopes that a nuclear deal will be made with Iran, but only slightly. There are still major differences and it’s not clear they can be overcome. Secretary Kerry was to return to the States for an event honoring his friend and colleague, the late Ted Kennedy. Kerry has cancelled the trip to remain at the negotiations.

Netanyahu says the deal is worse than he feared.

There are no negotiations going on in Yemen. There are lots of dropping bombs. Saudi Arabia claims to have destroyed the ballistic missiles the Shiite rebels seized when they toppled the Sunni government. The Arab League is holding a summit and is presenting a pretty united front against the rebels, announcing at the same time a regional security force.

The situation underscores the tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Places like Yemen and Libya are the grounds now for proxy wars while the two powers attempt to become dominant in the Middle East.

In the confusing battleground that is Syria, the Al-Nursa Front has taken the city of Idlib. As they entered the city, they reported that Syrian troops had executed some detainees before fleeing the city. Al-Nursa is one of the groups, along with IS, vying for power in fractured Syria.

It is difficult to keep the players straight.

Singapore is saying farewell to its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. The Prime Minister of India is there along with many other world leaders. The city is said to be at a standstill. For them, it’s like saying good-bye to George Washington.

Tomorrow, I leave Roorkee to return to Delhi. The weather looks ominous and so I will be praying for a safe driver. It will be good to be back in Delhi, where creature comforts are a bit more available. Not only is the campus “dry,” it is also vegetarian. I am hankering for some chicken tikka.

Letter From New York 03 28 15 In Holy Haridwar…

March 28, 2015

When I wake up in India, everyone I know is 9.5 hours behind me, sound asleep. It’s a little odd but I have gotten used to it. Beginning the day with an Indian breakfast, I moved on to two presentations here at Cognizance that I was interested in attending. One was by Kamlesh Sharma, Director of Coca-Cola, India. He is a remarkable young spokesperson for his company, invested with more enthusiasm for company, culture and product than I have recently seen in any individual.

He was followed by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor, UN Women, who was here to talk about and evangelize “HeForShe,” a gender parity campaign launched by the UN earlier this year with a speech by Emma Watson, she of “Harry Potter” fame. And, yes, there is an app for that.

Following lunch, my new best friend, Ron Eglash, of RPI in Troy, NY, just up the road from Claverack, and I went with two of our young hosts to Haridwar, one of the seven holiest places in India for Hindus, the place where the Ganges flows into India.

We traveled for an hour to get there, through the dusty plains of northern India, past the roadside shantytowns and masses of humanity, threading our way through traffic, tossing our hat at danger at every moment. We rode past massive construction projects, all of which seemed halted at some point in their development with no sign they would ever be completed.

Walking on the bridge across the Ganges, you can stand and watch people bathing in the river. People by the dozens sell empty plastic bottles of varying sizes so that the pilgrims can take home the holy water of the Ganges.

People with deformed limbs line the walks, begging. It was a scene I remember well from my other times in India. One old woman looked me in the eye and I lined her tin cup with paper rupees. She reminded me of my mother.

In some ways, it felt very much like I was part of the Raj, sliding through the crushes of humanity in an air-conditioned Toyota, passing close enough to people that our eyes met and caught, my wondering about their world, as I am sure they wondered about mine.

Whole families transported themselves on motorbikes, no one wearing helmets, children delicately balanced between parents. It appeared to me that no one in India uses seatbelts either. Ashad, one of my hosts, languidly lounged in the front seat, his seat belt unbuckled.

The students who get into any of the branches of the India Institute of Technology are the best and brightest of Indian students. Each year only 5000 are granted places. I teased Ashad that I was with two of the brightest people I had ever known.

And I was.

We returned to the guesthouse as the sun was setting, a brilliant pink orb descending in the west and I retreated to my room to write.

While I was watching the Ganges flow, it was revealed that the co-pilot of the downed Germanwings flight, Andreas Lubitz, was responsible for the crash, with the loss of all aboard. He had said that his name would be famous. What a way to get what you want.

In Indiana, Governor Pence, has signed into law a “religious freedom” bill, which allows people to refuse service to same sex couples. He is surprised and frustrated that he is getting a negative response from a lot of folks, including the N.C.A.A., based in Indianapolis. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned all publicly funded travel to the state. Gen Con, a convention for gaming enthusiasts held every year in Indianapolis is threatening to leave. Salesforce.com is outraged and has said so.

Lots of celebrities and others, including Hillary Clinton, are piling on. The head of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has called the bill “unnecessary.” Yelp is yelping, quite loudly.

Governor Pence is perplexed. If he had thought the bill was discriminatory, he wouldn’t have signed, he said.

He hasn’t ruled out a run for the Presidency.

Amanda Knox, who along with her boyfriend, had been accused of killing her roommate in Italy, has finally been vindicated and her conviction thrown out. The case has had more turns than a ride at Disneyland.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has wiped clean the server that she used for email in her years as Secretary of State. This isn’t going away for a long, long time.

And it’s not a very long time until I am giving my speech in the morning. I am skipping tonight’s festivities, a Swedish heavy metal band, and am going to my room after dinner to further prep my remarks and say some prayers that it all goes well.